TIME FOR A BE­FIT­TING RE­SPONSE

India Today - - COVER STORY -

TGUEST COL­UMN he na­tion has been as­sured in no un­cer­tain terms by the gov­ern­ment that the supreme sac­ri­fice of 19 brave sol­diers, who were mar­tyred on Septem­ber 18, 2016, in the Uri sec­tor, will not go in vain. The prime min­is­ter, while con­demn­ing the das­tardly ter­ror attack warned that those be­hind it shall not go un­pun­ished. While al­most all cabi­net min­is­ters echoed th­ese sen­ti­ments, Min­is­ter of State Dr Ji­ten­dra Singh em­pha­sised the need for ac­tion against the per­pe­tra­tors and said that in­ac­tion would be tan­ta­mount to cow­ardice. It is ev­i­dent the Uri attack has fi­nally breached the thresh­old of In­dia’s tolerance.

It seems that the Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties, es­pe­cially the army, have failed to take note of the chang­ing po­lit­i­cal and strate­gic cli­mate in In­dia. The ide­al­is­tic ap­proach of yes­ter­year is slowly but surely be­ing re­placed by a more re­al­is­tic and ro­bust pol­icy vis­à­vis Pakistan. The gov­ern­ment, hav­ing ex­hausted all pos­si­ble friendly op­tions, is fi­nally pre­pared to pay Pakistan back in its own coin, and speak in the lan­guage it un­der­stands. The prime min­is­ter had given enough in­di­ca­tors of this emerg­ing shift in our pol­icy dur­ing his In­de­pen­dence Day speech from the ram­parts of the Red Fort, and even dur­ing the re­cent 2016 G20 Hangzhou sum­mit and the Vientiane East Asia Sum­mit.

Any mil­i­tary re­sponse against Pakistan should be part of a well­chalked­out strat­egy, and not just an anger­driven re­tal­ia­tory ac­tion. The lessons of Op­er­a­tion Parakram— un­der­taken in the after­math of the Pakistan­spon­sored ter­ror attack on our Par­lia­ment in De­cem­ber 2001—must be fac­tored into the cur­rent strat­egy, so that the na­tional ini­tia­tive does not peter out with­out giv­ing us the de­sired po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary div­i­dends. The most im­por­tant les­son from Parakram was that any ap­pli­ca­tion of mil­i­tary force at the na­tional level must be in con­cert with the diplo­matic, eco­nomic and in­for­ma­tional El­e­ments of Na­tional Power (EsNP). A stand­alone mil­i­tary ap­pli­ca­tion is in­ad­e­quate to as­sert our na­tional will. To co­erce Pakistan to de­sist from nur­tur­ing and ex­port­ing ter­ror, not just to In­dia, but even to other coun­tries in the re­gion, our na­tional strat­egy has to be all­en­com­pass­ing and multi­pronged. It must bring on board all na­tions that have been bled by ter­ror attacks.

Con­cep­tu­ally, the use of mil­i­tary force should be able to with­stand jus ad bel­lum scru­tiny. This means that ‘hard power’ must al­ways be ap­plied as a last re­sort. This has been aptly demon­strated by the gov­ern­ment. The prime min­is­ter has left no stone un­turned in reach­ing out to his coun­ter­part in Pakistan, to strengthen bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. More­over, the force be­ing used should be mea­sured and ap­plied in a man­ner that al­lows for the at­tain­ment of our po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tive(s). Once the po­lit­i­cal go­ahead has been given, the mil­i­tary as­pect—in­clud­ing ‘when, where and how’, should be left en­tirely to mil­i­tary com­man­ders.

We are jus­ti­fied in fi­nally adopt­ing an ag­gres­sive na­tional pol­icy, one that will in­flict ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain on Pakistan, through a com­pre­hen­sive ini­tia­tive en­tail­ing a co­or­di­nated em­ploy­ment of all EsNP. Diplo­matic iso­la­tion, the use of eco­nomic pres­sure points, en­hanc­ing the Pak­istani army’s com­mit­ments in its in­ter­nal se­cu­rity, stak­ing claim to own ar­eas, high­light­ing the atroc­i­ties of the Pak­istani army against the Balochis, and cal­i­brated, overt and covert mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions to cause at­tri­tion on the Pak­istani army and its asym­met­ric ca­pa­bil­i­ties are some of the prongs of this strat­egy.

Pakistan’s nu­clear sabre­rat­tling should not de­ter us from im­ple­ment­ing our strat­egy in earnest. How­ever, a de­tailed anal­y­sis of the risks and our abil­ity to ef­fec­tively deal with any es­ca­la­tion must be fac­tored into the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tional art. Hard­en­ing of civil ar­eas, along with spruc­ing up of civil de­fence mech­a­nisms, is im­per­a­tive to en­sure that our pop­u­lace is in­su­lated from the spillover ef­fects of any con­flict. Also, to neu­tralise the rhetoric from Pakistan about its ir­ra­tional nu­clear in­tent, we need to evolve and im­ple­ment an en­dur­ing pub­lic in­for­ma­tion and per­cep­tion man­age­ment plan that gives a strong mes­sage to Pak­istani de­ci­sion­mak­ers that any nu­clear mis­ad­ven­ture would in­vite a mas­sive retaliation, the con­se­quences of which will be hor­ren­dous for Pakistan.

Log­i­cally, the na­tion, fa­tigued by our tra­di­tional lais­sez faire pol­icy of in­ac­tion and pas­siv­ity, ex­pected a post­haste ret­ri­bu­tion from the present gov­ern­ment. How­ever, it must be noted that the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, while launch­ing ter­ror­ist strikes, al­ways adopts pre­cau­tion­ary de­fen­sive mea­sures, fear­ing an im­me­di­ate retaliation. There­fore, the tim­ing of our re­sponse as­sumes im­por­tance, along with the se­lec­tion of the tar­get, which when hit must in­flict ag­o­nis­ing ef­fects on the ad­ver­sary. Suf­fice it to say that our mil­i­tary has com­pre­hen­sive plans for all pos­si­ble con­tin­gen­cies; how­ever, the adop­tion of any plan re­quires po­lit­i­cal ap­proval. Given the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sive­ness and re­solve, it is ev­i­dent that Pakistan shall not go un­pun­ished. Let the time and place of our re­sponse take the Pak­istani mil­i­tary by sur­prise.

For any se­cu­rity strat­egy to suc­ceed, na­tional unity is vi­tal, as ‘one na­tional voice’ helps in at­tain­ing op­ti­mal multi­agency and multi­stake­holder syn­ergy. Let us, as a great na­tion, stand united for a right­eous cause.

COVER STORY

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